I never really got into Dexter while the show was actually on. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good serial-killer show, because I do. I just never found the premise all that interesting. A high-functioning sociopathic serial killer who works for the crime lab in Miami PD uses his knowledge and instincts to catch the bad guy and (most often) dispense his own brand of justice on those who escaped arrest or jailtime. Sounds like a second-rate procedural, right?
Well, that’s where I was wrong, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Our serial killer protagonist is a likable guy, for one. That’s an incredible twist and it is capitivating.
Dexter’s baser instincts make him a good blood spatter analyst. His lab skills make him a careful killer. It’s a delicate balance, and the show does it masterfully.
But it’s not just that. As we get to know the characters better and understand their relationships, as we delve deeper into Dexter’s past through flashbacks, as new super-villains come along – as opposed to the regular villains he defeats in each episode – the line gets blurred more and more, not only because of Dexter’s affinity to the other killers, but because we end up rooting for the antihero.
We root for Dexter’s identity to stay hidden. We root for his sister’s failure as a police officer (and later lieutenant) to uncover the mystery. Later, we even root for his twisted relationship with a fellow serial killer to have a happy ending.
But let me backtrack a little bit here: while Dexter was the only one in the know, it felt like every time we witnesses one of his atrocities, he gave us a wink at the end. We were in on this together. We were his co-conspirators, and we were fine with that. But Dexter, sociopath though he may be, is only human. He started making mistakes. And when his sister caught him red-handed, that’s where the show started taking a down turn for me.
His relationship with his sister changed, but that’s not what irked me. It’s not that I don’t like Debra, but I didn’t particularly enjoy watching her crumble. She was supposed to be the moral compass, not his partner. We no longer had the privilege of being the only ones in the know.
Still, it was interesting to watch, and as the show came to an end, it was intriguing to see how it would wrap everything up. It wasn’t the kind of show that ends with a happily ever after. Murder and crime stories almost never are. Breaking Bad wasn’t, and the finale was phenomenal.
The Dexter finale was supposed to be like that. Instead, it put the nail on the coffin in the most awful way imaginable. Not only did Dexter not get his happy ending, which was to be expected, he didn’t even get to have his antihero ending. In Felina, Water White dies in the middle of the mess he has created, having done his best to help Jesse and his family.
With Dexter we get a similar effort; he tries to save Debra, Hannah and his son. He tried to save Rita before and failed. This time he won’t make the same mistake. He is the one who puts them in danger, and he knows it. So he will do the altruistic thing. He will deny himself the happiness he thinks he doesn’t deserve, and leave them be.
We watch his sail his little speedboat into the storm, knowing he will never make it out alive. And despite the sadness, it feels like vindication. He will never be a normal human being, he will never stop hurting others, either by taking lives or by putting them in harm’s way. He chooses to die in order to save the lives of the innocent, as he did when he killed criminals who got away with it.
That would have been a fine end. I would have gotten behind that. But no. The last few seconds of the finale just had to go and ruin everything.
We see Lumberjack Dexter, who has miraculously survived the storm that tore down Miami, living like a hermit in a cabin in the woods. The End.
…What? How does that make sense? Are we supposed to be glad that our protagonist didn’t die? That, instead, he has to live out his life dreaming about the life he could have had with Hannah? Maybe even rejoice that he was the bigger man and made the right choice for his loved ones?
Bulls**t. The final scene was a major cop-out. I don’t know how Jeff Lindsay’s novel (which the show is based on) ends, and I obviously have no idea who’s final decision that was, but the show runners took what could have been greatness and turned it into a farce. No wonder the internet broke when the finale aired. I’m just glad all the uproar had prepared me for what was the single most disappointing episode in the series.